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WITH A MAGICIAN OF CAIRO              81
into the city. Little bells were tied to each animal so that the whole procession made a merry jingling noise. Through the dark lanes I threaded my way, afoot and alone, trying to find the wizard's house.
I traversed a labyrinth of teeming by-ways which were so narrow that the sky appeared as an irregular slit between the house roofs. Yet, the sunlight playing upon those irregular streets, created a picturesque study in strong light and shade.
I picked my route, at last, along the winding street which led to his door through thick-piled white dust, that blew in from the bleak Mokattam hills which overlooked the nearby city boundary.
His house was large and medieval, its front being built of oblong blocks of stone whose faces were gaily coloured. The upper part had several heavily shuttered windows. A pair of heavy, carved and moulded, double doors turned inwards on a small but high vestibule wherein I found a couple of chairs and a low coffee-table, but no sign of anyone present. I peeped through another door into an adjoining room; no one was there either. I, thereupon, walked through a small stone-flagged passage into an inner courtyard, which was cluttered up with piles of papers and large documents, all so utterly dust-laden as to suggest that this open courtyard was used as a repository for the magician's more ancient archives. I wandered disconsolately around the place for about five minutes, wondering when and where someone would put in an appearance; but, still being unable to find anyone, I returned to the street and brought back a neighbour, who ascended alonr into the upper regions of the house. A couple of minutes later she descended, together with a young man of about seventeen.
The latter addressed me in a soft hesitant tone.
"What is it you want, please?"
When I mentioned the magician's name he drew back in surprise. It was evident that Europeans were not numbered among the clientele.
"My father!" he exclaimed. "What do you wish to see him about, please?"
I explained my business and proffered a pencilled note of introduction. When he saw the name at its foot his eyes lit up with welcome. "Come! Take a seat."
He led me into the room adjoining the vestibule, and pointed invitingly at a divan covered with plain white cloth.